Quietly lurking in the background in the FCIAC championship picture, the Fairfield Ludlowe girls basketball team is used to being in the hunt once of the postseason rolls around. Now winners of four straight games, the Falcons appear ready to strike again.

Ludlowe used a quick start and a stifling defensive effort to beat Staples 52-34 Monday night to remain in fifth place in the FCIAC and improve to 10-4 with five regular-season games remaining.

Though the Falcons have to be at their best to mount a serious title challenge, coach Sarah Huntington likes what she has on the bench.

“One of the things I love about this team is how hard they work; I’d like to say that we are in contention,” Huntington said. “I think we really are; but for us it’s going to be more about the hustle, the nitty-gritty and the 50-50 balls.”

Junior Peyton Brown tormented the Wreckers at both ends of the floor to help Ludlowe secure the win. She led all scorers with 21 points and supplied seven blocks on defense.

“She’s so skilled and so much natural ability I think she sometimes thinks too much on offense,” Huntington said. “If she lets the offense flow; that’s the kind of player she is. She’s very athletically gifted.”

Brown sparked a 10-2 run to start the game by hitting a jumper and a 3-pointer. The Falcons continued their jump-shooting prowess into the second quarter as a 12-0 run bridging the opening two periods pushed the lead to 20 points.

“We came out with a lot of energy,” Huntington said. “It was awesome to get that 26-6 lead at one point. I was proud of the energy tonight.”

Warde 50, Greenwich 47

The down-to-the-wire script between that the Fairfield Warde and Greenwich girls’ basketball teams had followed since 2012 did not change when the rivals met Monday in a rematch of last season’s thrilling FCIAC tournament semifinal.

Embroiled in a game featuring numerous lead changes and momentum twists, the Mustangs and Cardinals, were indeed, at it again. Yet this time the Mustangs had a close game go their way. Limiting Greenwich to just two points the final 4:18, visiting Warde came back to record a hard-fought 50-47 victory.

The triumph extended the Mustangs’ winning streak to 13 games. Warde suffered a 47-44 loss to the Cardinals in the FCIAC semifinals a year ago.

“It was another battle between two playoff teams,” said Warde coach Dave Danko, whose squad is 13-1 on the season. “It feels good to win a close one this time. We’ve been thinking about last season’s playoff game against them all year. Our team is battle-tested and we really did a good job of responding to adversity.”

Junior forward Iliana Krasniqi scored a game-high 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while junior forward/center Shania Osborne tallied 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Mustangs. Emily Anderson, a junior forward, had 13 points and six rebounds.

Greenwich guard Shaye Galletta’s two foul shots gave the Cardinals a 45-41 lead with 4:18 left to play but from there, Warde outscored Greenwich 9-2 to pull out the win. Krasniqi’s 3-pointer and Osborne’s layup put Warde ahead for good at 46-45 with 3:05 left in the final quarter. Sophomore Libby McKenna’s second 3-pointer of the night gave the Mustangs a 49-45 advantage at the 2:30 mark.

Meanwhile, baskets were tough to come by down the stretch for the Cardinals. The Mustangs played a strong man-to-man defense, mixed in with a 2-3 zone.

Pushing the ball up the court quickly, Warde raced out to a 17-7 lead with 7:45 left in the second quarter. But foul trouble forced the Mustangs to fall back into a 2-3 zone and the visitors lost their momentum a bit. Cardinals guard Jayla Faison’s layup off a steal and senior Caroline Beneville’s 3-pointer from the right corner gave the Cards their first lead at 18-17 midway through the second quarter. But Krasniqi and Osborne accounted for the Mustangs’ final eight points of the second quarter, giving their team a 24-22 edge going into halftime.

Lejla Markovic scored 11 points before fouling out and had four assists and four rebounds for Warde, which received six assists from point guard Daja Polk.